The intriguing prospect of Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Alien’ project

Alien_(1979)_-_space_jockey

After the recent news of the next planned installment to the Alien franchise it is safe to say there is a lot to be excited about

If you are interested in the latest news surrounding cinema you’ll know that we’re poised quite nicely in a strong time for science fiction. Last year we had films such as Under the Skin showing how small scale sci fi works perfectly, as well as big blockbusters such as Interstellar showing how mainstream audiences are still interested in the genre. This year we’ve got films such as Chappie and Ex Machina already leading the way for a good year, as well as Terminator making a much unwanted come back later this year. If you take a look towards future releases there have been some interesting announcements. Just recently we had the announcement that Blade Runner will be getting a sequel after years of the idea being discussed. However the news that has me most excited is that Neill Blomkamp, famed director of District 9 and Elysium, will be making the next installment in the Alien franchise.

It’s interesting, I think Blomkamp being named as director is the best part of this news, because we already know that he is a very talented filmmaker of the science fiction genre. If it was announced that this film was being made but without a director’s name being attached to it at this point then I would roll my eyes, sigh, and this blog post would be of an entirely different nature. I wouldn’t want to see another sequel made unless it was with a good director at the helm because I care about the original so much. Alien still stands as one of my favourite films of all time, I think it is one of the most important pieces of cinema to have ever been made, however for me the sequels have ruined it. Obviously Aliens is still a very good film but when you move into the region of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection the story loses itself completely and it becomes void of any substance. It seems to have detracted too far away from the original Alien but I think Blomkamp could be the person to bring it back to where it once was.

Much like JJ Abrams was able to salvage the Star Trek franchise by recrafting it for a modern audience I think Blomkamp could be the person to do this for Alien. It just makes me happy to know that this project is being placed in the hands of a director who cares about it. What seems to have happened is that the original Alien idea has been stretched out in order to make money, hence we have somehow found ourselves presented with Alien vs Predator and worse still Aliens vs Predator: Requiem. All of the substance that was once held in Ridley Scott’s original 1979 masterpiece has been squeezed out so that the hollow shell can be used as a money maker. That’s not what Blomkamp will do, as we have found recently when his intentions became clear.

If you’ve read around the topic enough you’ll know that Alien 3 was a very conflicted project. The story was changed multiple times, it was reworked so that the film they were originally intending to make was dropped to make way for the god awful film we know today. What Blomkamp himself said when he first started talking about the film was:

“there’s Alien, then Aliens, and then this film”

and so what he has suggested is that his film would take place directly after Aliens, meaning that in the timeline of events Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection would essentially become null and void. Blomkamp would be taking events down a different path, and I like the sound of that. Alien 3 has always been considered a bad film. Famously David Fincher who directed the film didn’t like it and when they offered him to work on it again to create a director’s cut he turned it down and said he wanted nothing to do with the film, and we can see why. Story wise there is a very little development and the whole thing seems excessive. It’s like when you watch a film, get to a certain point and think “there, that is where the film should end” but then have to sit through thirty minutes more screen time and lose patience with it. That’s what Alien 3 is, it’s the thirty minutes of excess stretched out in to a feature film. Then after that we had Alien: Resurrection which was again excessive and just felt rather unnecessary, so I’m not bothered about Blomkamp wanting to make his film and pretend those films never happened, I think he would be doing the right thing.

There was a fiasco before whereby the story was changed for Alien 3 several times and now it’s unclear as to whether some people should be included in the credits for writing or if some people opted out of it to distance themselves from the project, so hopefully Blomkamp will steer us back in the right direction. I think no matter happens this is going to be an interesting experience because Blomkamp will obviously have a lot of ideas of his own. He has said on multiple occasions that he loves the first two films and so trusting him to make a sequel that comes directly after them is not only a wise decision but the right decision. In order to now screw this up the director/ writer has to care for the source material.

As well as the news of this film being made Blomkamp has released concept art for the film, originally releasing it and informing us that the project had been cancelled, before taking it back up again. The concept art is very intriguing, with some interesting work based around Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, but one of the most interesting pieces in the collection of artwork features someone else. In what is quite possibly the most intriguing piece of concept art we have seen so far we can quite clearly see the character of Ripley stood with the character of Hicks. I quite like the way that’s heading. Alien 3 in a way went off on a complete tangent, it felt like a film from a completely different series. What Blomkamp is intending to do it make a sequel that stays where we want it to and so we can only hope that the character of Hicks has a larger part somehow and it should be interesting to see exactly how that works.

Now I think Blomkamp is the right person to direct this film. He is a modern director with fresh ideas and experience in making science fiction. I haven’t seen Chappie yet and it’s been some time since I first saw Elysium but District 9 still stands as one of my favourite films from recent years. It was a big and unabashedly bold science fiction film and it had large success with audiences worldwide. It wasn’t just down to the incredible special effects or the interesting story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, it stood out because it has a running thread throughout of interviews with various people, and so what you have is almost this sociological commentary that follows the events as they develop and it did make for a very interesting experience. It was nice to see a film whereby humans aren’t depicted as just going in all guns blazing when the aliens arrive, instead we look more towards studying them and keeping the peace. Obviously one of the key features that stands out is the fact the aliens actually become residents and so parts of human life coincide with theirs. So we have sequences whereby the main character is giving out eviction notices to some aliens, and fact that the alien species comes to Earth and is very fond of cat food. It’s just the little details such as this that proved Blomkamp to be a talented writer who understands the genre well enough to add their own twist to it.

What is most important about him though, for me personally, is the fact that he appreciates the original film. It seems like directors that have made films based in the same universe as Alien had quite a pick’n’mix approach when considering the original. They looked at the film and picked out the violence and the blood and the creepiness that comes with the creature, and the chest bursting and so left out all of the elements that made the original as good as it was. Blomkamp has already said that Alien and Aliens were his favourite films of the franchise, so we know he has good intentions and and he isn’t about the run the risk of ruining the story. I think he understands the originals enough to know how to make a film based on them but whilst adding his own visual influence.

When considering how the Alien films have advanced I would still argue that the first one is the best and is one of the greatest films of all time. Aliens was still a good film and I can appreciate that but for me it borders into a slightly less impressive territory with the addition of marines firing off rounds in a James Cameron styled manner. Alien for me is the undisputed masterpiece. Every element is pitched perfectly, from the screenplay that develops the characters so that we actually care about them, right through to the pacing. And what was obviously one of the main factors that made the first film as good as it is was the work from artist H R Giger who designed the set and the creatures themselves. He brought a simplistic chill to the interior design of the Nostromo and obviously was responsible for creating one of the most terrifying creatures ever seen on screen. He was an extremely talented man and it is a shame that he won’t be here to help with the next film, however Blomkamp does seem like he has some pretty impressive ideas and I’m looking forward to seeing what a talented modern director with a good eye for cinema does with the Alien universe.

So in summary I think they have made the right decision in letting Blomkamp go ahead with this idea, I think he is full of good ideas and he respects the original film enough do it justice. It will be nice to see Aliens finally get the sequel it deserves and to see the franchise move back on track after recent disasters. I am hoping that this going to be similar to the Star Trek films of recent years whereby we see a franchise we all love coming back to the big screen, with a good director at the helm and in a modernised way but whilst still respecting what the original set out to do.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have any thoughts on the matter then please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. In particular I’d like to know your choices for directors who could make this sequel if Blomkamp was out of the question and why you would pick them.

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